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Theater Review: All New People

July 27, 2014
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Point Blank Productions presents Zach Braff’s “All New People” through July 27 at Orlando Shakes.

Charlie (Jake Teixeira) is at the end of his rope — or orange extension cord, to be exact — and is about to hang himself in a New Jersey beach house, when realtor Emma (Carol Crosby) coincidentally enters and interrupts his attempted suicide. The gregarious ganja smoker (a refugee from Great Britain in search of a green card) tries to get Charlie to divulge the reason for his depression, enlisting her firefighter/drug dealer friend Myron (Alex Aragon) to cheer him up. In true sitcom style, a ukulele-playing high-dollar escort (Madison Gomez as “Kim”) also arrives, courtesy of Charlie’s billionaire buddy. Before this one-act pilot episode is over, each character divulges their deep, dark backstory between profane wisecracks and fortune-cookie platitudes about divine intervention and human connection.

All New People is the third presentation from Point Blank Productions, which was formed in 2011 by Hagerty High School alumni Teixeira and Aragon, who collaborate as co-producers and co-directors (with assistant direction by Chelsea Sorenson). The cast and crew are all local college students, and have done an impressive job assembling the production, considering their age and experience, and earned appreciative laughs from the supportive opening night audience. Myron is the breakout character, and Aragon executes his coke-snorting, bullshit-cutting outbursts with a standup comic’s precision, while Gomez enhances Kim’s enchanting eye candy with sly suggestions that this wannabe singer is smarter than she seems.

The two central performances are more troublesome, with Teixeira never finding a way to make Charlie’s unremitting grumpiness in any way appealing, begging the question of why these strangers want to save him; it doesn’t help that he’s way too young and WASPy for a mid-30′s Jew. Crosby pours admirable energy into Emma’s improbably eccentric character, but is felled by a distractingly inconsistent English accent. Equally inconsistent is the pace, which sometimes crackles with tight comic timing, and other times stumbles with maudlin pauses and stiff pratfalls. Adding to the awkwardness are flashback moments that were scripted as filmed interludes; staged instead with long blackouts on either end, the scenelets add little and bring the momentum to a screeching halt.

Ultimately, this is a B performance of a C script that combines the worst elements of Braff’s wackiness and navel-gazing. Despite a number of interesting elements, the show is ultimately less than the sum of its parts. The young talents behind Point Blank have obvious potential, and I applaud the hard work that I know firsthand a production like this takes. For their next outing, I hope they find a better, more age-appropriate play to practice their craft on.

 

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